Gallery Contracts


Armand Cabrera

When negotiating with a gallery, make sure you have a written contract. Honest people realize a contract protects both parties involved; if it is worth discussing it is worth putting in writing. Never assume anything about a business or people you don’t know. Not everyone will agree on what is fair and what is not.

Don’t let contracts put you off. While it is possible to have a successful partnership without a contract, by not having one you risk the loss of your inventory to unscrupulous people or unforeseen circumstances. Remember, you can agree to anything you like. A contract is just the written form of that agreement nothing more.

Contract items should include who pays for shipping artwork to and from the artist, framing, advertising and mailings. Negotiate what the commission percentage is for the gallery and how much they can discount, if at all. Set the retail price for your work. Make sure the gallery has a time limit on when they pay. A good gallery should pay immediately and no later than two weeks. Art work is consigned, it is your money and they have no right to hold it without your permission.

Decide with the gallery what their territory will be. Include the right to show in one or two group shows a year that might be in that area through a Museum or art organization. Paintings consigned to the gallery should always be hung in the showroom not stored in the back. State these things in writing.

A clause to dissolve the agreement between the two parties is also necessary. It should state clearly how much notice is needed to terminate the contract and how any unpaid money or debt is handled. Once you sign an agreement you are bound by the terms. This means not undercutting your sales and prices.Limit the terms of the contract to one or two years maximum. Some galleries have a hard time with an artist’s success as much as their lack of it and you will outgrow some of your galleries as your prices increase. It has been my experience that there are willing buyers for quality work at every price level. Don’t be afraid to move on if you feel the gallery is holding you back. My belief is the marketplace will let you know if you are doing the right thing.

10 thoughts on “Gallery Contracts

  1. Thanks for the tips! I used to work for a curator at a university, and I've heard several horror stories of artwork that was stolen by faculty or not cared for properly… can't be too careful!

  2. Bill,

    Yes they do. I had to sue a gallery in small claims court and because I had a contract and consignment sheet I was awarded a judgement.

  3. Thanks again for the important tips and for taking the time to share them. Armand, that bottom mountain scene is really beautiful. I especially appreciate how you captured the cloud shadow in the foreground. I find those things hard to do. Bill

  4. Bill,

    Thanks. The trick with shadows is to not drop the values too much and to reverse the temperature of the lights from the sunlit areas.

  5. Refuse to show there. There is absolutely no sane reason a gallery wouldn't want a written agreement unless they plan to not honor it. Why would you fdo business that way? Respect the profession and it will respect you.

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